Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  The Roman Legions

Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

John Mitford 1781–1859

The Roman Legions

OH, aged Time! how far, and long,

Travell’d have thy pinions strong,

Since the masters of the world

Here their eagle-wings unfurl’d.

Onward as the legions pass’d,

Was heard the Roman trumpet’s blast,

And see the mountain portals old

Now their opening gates unfold.

Slow moves the Consul’s car between

Bright glittering helms and axes keen;

O’er moonlit rocks, and ramparts bare,

High the Pretorian banners glare.

Afar is heard the torrent’s moan,

The winds through rifted caverns groan;

The vulture’s huge primeval nest,

Wild toss’d the pine its shatter’d crest;

Darker the blackening forest frown’d:

Strange murmurs shook the trembling ground.

In the old warrior’s midnight dream

Gigantic shadows seem’d to gleam,—

The Caudine forks, and Cannæ’s field

Again their threatening cohorts yield.

Seated on the Thunderer’s throne,

He saw the shapes of gods unknown,

Saw in Olympus’ golden hall

The volleyed lightning harmless fall,

The great and Capitolian lord

Dim sink, ’mid nameless forms abhorr’d.

Shook the Tarpeian cliff; around

The trembling Augur felt the sound;

Saw, God of Light! in deathly shade,

Thy rich, resplendent tresses fade,

And from the empty car of day

The ethereal coursers bound away.

Then frequent rose the signal shrill,

Oft heard on Alba’s echoing hill,

Or down the Apulian mountains borne,

The mingled swell of trump and horn;

The stern centurion frown’d to hear

Unearthly voices murmuring near;

Back to his still and Sabine home

Fond thoughts and favorite visions roam.

Sweet Vesta! o’er the woods again

He views thy small and silent fane;

He sees the whitening torrents leap

And flash round Tibur’s mountain-steep;

Sees Persian ensigns wide unroll’d,

Barbaric kings in chains of gold;

O’er the long Appian’s crowded street,

Sees trophied arms and eagles meet,

Through the tall arch their triumph pour,

Till rose the trumpet’s louder roar;

From a thousand voices nigh

Burst on his ear the banner-cry,

And o’er the concave rocks, the sound

“AVRELIVS,” smote with stern rebound.